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Little champs rivals in chess, partners in pranks

Srijan Chatterjee could barely name a few pieces on the chessboard when he saw a bespectacled man poring over the squares and was told by his mother, “That is Viswanathan Anand. No one in the world can beat him.”

“I will,” pat came the reply from the boy, who still has difficulty pronouncing the World Chess Champion’s name.

The three-and-a-half-year-old inaugurated the 24th edition of The Telegraph Schools’ Chess on Thursday along with cousin Alaktika, who turned four on Friday. The two are the youngest participants at this year’s chess meet.

Srijan, of course, had plenty to do at the venue, Gorky Sadan, besides moving pieces on a giant magnetic chessboard to throw open the tournament and play the mind game. Mom Amrita had a tough time running after him as he pushed chairs around, took a keen interest in the electrical switches and shook the pedestal fans.

But when it comes to chess, the restless boy is all concentration; ask him about Anand and the nursery student at Stepping Stone playschool comes into his own. “He is such a good chess player that nobody can beat him. But I will,” Srijan told Metro, exuding a confidence that would make Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand go green.

Chess, of course, is a family tradition with Srijan and Alaktika and their cousin Sarodia, 9, who is also taking part in the tournament. Their grandfather Rudrani Charan Chatterjee is an international arbiter who has even judged the British Championship twice.

His sons, Srish, Laltu and Darunath, father of Alaktika, Sarodia and Srijan respectively, have been serious chess players themselves and are still involved with the sport as coach, national arbiter or player.

Srijan and Alaktika, both of who faced much older opponents on Day One of the eight-day meet on Thursday, lost in about 20 minutes, but Srijan managed a win on Friday.

“We never forced them to play chess. They themselves showed interest in learning the moves from as early as one-and-a-half years,” said Rudrani Charan, the arbiter of the tournament.

Srijan does play a bit of cricket and football in school, but chess is the clear winner.

Such is the passion for the game in the family from Rishra that the mothers of all three kids have had to pick up a few moves and improve their knowledge of the game too to keep up with their children. The women devote at least an hour everyday to the game.

“Last year, only Sarodia played the tourney. This year, it’s more like a family affair as all three kids and their parents would be here every day,” said Rudrani Charan. The family members have been coming to Howrah, crossing the Hooghly by a launch and taking a bus or cab to the venue.

Srijan and Alaktika enjoyed their moment in the limelight on Thursday as they were “carried” to the podium for the opening of the tournament, which has been the launch pad for the likes of Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Joydeb Saha, Mary Ann Gomes and Diptayan Das.

As the cousins — adversaries when they play practice matches at home — turned allies and jumped up and down on the state, clapping with the audience, Grandmasters Ganguly and Deep Sengupta picked up the two in their laps.

So, who won more often when the two play against each other? “Me,” yelled both in unison.